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· Naturefund

Climate Report 2021: A Year of Extremes

The new climate report of the European earth observation programme Copernicus shows: 2021 was a year of extremes. While the summer was hotter than ever, extreme weather events such as heat waves, forest fires and floods increased.

Climate worldwide and in Europe

The recently published climate report confirms that the last seven years have been the warmest since records began. The year 2021 was the sixth warmest of the last seven years, i.e. one of the cooler ones, although it also recorded a significant increase in global air surface temperature of 1.1 to 1.2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. 

Europe experienced the warmest summer since temperature records began. However, this was not the only extreme that occurred in Europe: record precipitation caused severe flooding in Western Europe, the Mediterranean region experienced record temperatures in July and August as well as intense and long heat waves. As a result of the drought, several countries, particularly Italy, Greece and Turkey, experienced extreme heat stress and severe forest fires. The area burned amounted to more than 800,000 hectares in July and August last year.

Important findings for the Arctic

Compared to 2020, temperatures in the Arctic were less extreme, with large parts of Siberia colder than average, especially early in the year. Intense forest fires in sub-Arctic Siberia resulted in smoke spreading across the entire Arctic region. Carbon emissions from Arctic forest fires were the fourth highest since records began in 2003, with eastern Siberia being a particular source. Arctic sea ice extent remained below average throughout the year. In summer and autumn, however, it was significantly above the record low values of previous years.

Long-term changes despite short-term fluctuations

The results of the 2021 report highlight the long-term increase in global and European temperatures since the pre-industrial era. Although 2021 was not a record year for Europe or the world, the European continent has warmed by about 2 °C since the pre-industrial era, and the globe by 1.1 to 1.2 °C. It is also to be feared that extreme weather events will continue to increase. This is because the concentration of the greenhouse gases CO2 and methane in the atmosphere also increased last year and reached the highest levels since records began.

The results of the Copernicus climate report coincide with those of the IPCC. If global warming is not limited, extreme weather events like last year are likely to increase even further. This makes it all the more urgent to counteract this, whether by protecting forests, preserving nature or promoting more sustainable agriculture, for example.



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